I apologize deeply for my absence as of late. The week before last I was in Baltimore, Maryland for a top secret meeting that I'm not supposed to talk about, involving a top-secret document that no one is supposed to know about. I really wish I could talk more about it. I hate all the hush-hush in so many of these dealings: I'm one of those bishops who really desire transparency and openness.
Last week I took the obligatory 'tour' of the gulf coast region, to investigate the damage. Not that there's much I can do about it, practically. Like I said a few weeks back, I took up a second collection and all that, pastoral letter, prayer of the faithful, etc. But all my diocese's money is tied up implementing the new rounds of audits demanded by the Charter, which we bishops (*ahem*) 'approved' in Chicago in June. (I was against it, of course, but McCarrick and Keeler gave us some none-too-subtle signals, and, of course, we stepped into line. Unanimity at all costs, that's the way we work.)
This past weekend, however, it was all transparency and openness, all over the place. I became transparent to the laity in ways I didn't know were possible. Or, I suppose, they became transparent to me.
You see, everyone has been talking about Bishop Aquila up in Fargo for the last year, ever since he mandated NFP classes for his clergy and all parishioners who wish to marry in his diocese. The NFP mafioso got the word out, and now my Respect Life office, Family Life office, and all the other chancery 'lobbyists' are at my back. Other bishops have complained to me of the same thing. One could have wished for a bit more consultation on something like this, but so be it.
I had informed my presbyterate, with all the necessary niceties, that they were expected to attend, and they informed me, with all the necessary niceties, that they would expect me to do the same. I nearly keeled over. But I suppose they had me over a barrel. So here I am, three months later, attending my first NFP training session.
Now I don't know about the rest of you. Maybe you're comfortable sitting in a circle with a bunch of sixty-year-old men in clerics, listening to a chummy, mid-forties laywoman talking about the various textures of vaginal mucus. I had no idea. I thought NFP simply meant putting check marks on a calendar, or something along those lines. I thought it had heard that it involved thermometers in some way, though I couldn't imagine how. And cervix circumference? You'll have to understand, those who went to seminary in the fifties, like myself, grew up a bit isolated from this whole element of married life. I do recall, rather vaguely, a guest lecturer at the Gregorian who described the reproductive process in fluent and rather evocative Latin. I recall that we all alternatively chuckled and grimaced throughout the lecture, and read our Italian newspapers, as was our custom back then.
But nothing could have prepared me for this. I admit I froze up a little, remained quite stoic through the whole presentation. I just kept waiting, in abysmal fear that, at some point during the presentation, we were going to have some kind of 'hands-on' workshop. My priests, seated around me, did nothing but glare at me throughout the session. On my way out, one of the senior priests elbowed me sharply in the ribs and said 'Way to go, Leo, why don't you join the rest of us - we're going out to an outhouse to throw up.' Another one said 'Next time you get a great idea like this, why don't you do a test run yourself first?'
How should I have known? But I suppose it was worth it. To get the transparency, you have to learn about translucency.